Khalil pic 2Twenty-four-year-old, Garfield native, Khalil Malik is the co-founder of Empty Space Project, a self-taught visual artist, fiction writer, and poet. All of his art centers Black youth in a world where only they exist. His writing addresses the reality of Black people in Pittsburgh while reimagining what life could be for them in a colorful way. With personal language and Yinzer slang, Khalil invites the reader into a part of society many don’t have access to, and makes the reader feel like a friend. Khalil’s artist philosophy relates closely to alchemy; using what is available and transforming it. He shares that philosophy as the Brand Ambassador for Empty Space Project, who’s motto is “Making something, out of nothing.” His company’s goal is to provide creative space for artists in gentrified communities by utilizing property under development. When he’s not promoting his own art, he’s putting his peers in position to advance their careers. Khalil’s writing is raw, personal, imaginative, and liberating. (Photo by Corrine Jasmin)

1. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

This book teaches that Black people can fly once they let go of the many things weighing them down.

2. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Toni Morrison when speaking of this book asked “invisible to whom?” She was questioning why it’s important for Black people to get validated by people outside of their community. This book takes you back to the time it was written and forces you to face the reality of how Black men felt during the peak of racism in America, creating empathy for those who feel invisible while also proving they were seen all along.

3. Life of Pi, Yann Martel

It doesn’t matter what God you believe in, Life of Pi teaches we all come from the same source. We can call that source many names and access it however we see fit. In all cultures, faith is a cornerstone of human existence.

4. How to Know God, Deepak Chopra

For a spiritual guide not rooted in religion, this is a great read. This book covers all the ways the human brain processes information and how God is understood.

5. Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde

This series of essays radically speaks about Black womanhood, feminism, and lesbianism. It is a MUST read for all cis gender men!

6. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

This book helps create empathy within the reader as you follow the main character, a Black woman, learning to love others and herself. Realizing her capacity to love others is contingent upon how she loves herself.

7. Holes, Louis Sachar

This childhood classic was a great example of the different kinds of boyhood. It dives deep into what it means to be a “bad boy,” subtlety touching on the school to prison pipeline, and how “bad boys” are often systematically “rehabilitated” for the profit of corporations.

8. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

After being placed on America’s Most Wanted list for fighting for Black liberation, she wrote her autobiography in Cuba protected by political asylum. This book is an amazing example of the resilience of Black women.

9. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

When the right to read books is taken away in this world, you see the negative effects and feel grateful for the gift of reading, writing, and sharing ideas through text.

10. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, Terrance Hayes

An amazing collection of modern poetry centered around Black America.